Question: Is it worthwhile trying to be your true, authentic self?
I’ve been writing for years about the power of going public with your real experience in order to face yourself and grow. All along, I knew I wanted to go on YouTube; I knew I wanted to have a podcast; I knew I wanted to dedicate time to building real relationships online, making authentic connections based on shared values and experiences.
Yet even though going public was something I was writing about and helping others live out, I wasn’t actually practicing it myself . . . not the way I wanted to.
Ever strategizing and planning, I didn’t realize I was hiding behind the idea of going public, perpetually putting off those things I most wanted to do.
In fact, right up to the moment I pressed record and actually started talking in the video above, I was frantically reworking on paper every detail of what I wanted to share—trying to figure out exactly what to say and how.
As soon as I forced myself to start, I realized all my desperate attempts to prepare never would have resulted in my real experience being shared.
I was being too intentional. My need to plan out every aspect was really just a scared response to pressures I’d never let myself acknowledge—pressures to look and sound a certain way, to act professional, and to always put across an acceptable image.
I had to get to where I finally had no choice but to tell myself, “Hey, you’re here. You have all this equipment set up. There’s nothing left to do but press record and start talking.”
The fact that I wasn’t being true to my conviction to go public might have never dawned on me if not for a painful experience that occurred a few days ago while I was going through my social media.
Let me back up a little…
About 4 or 5 months ago, I finally finished some big writing projects I’d been sequestering myself in a room (alone) for years to complete. Those projects being done meant it was time to go online and create my social media profiles.
My hope from the start was to connect with others in a genuine, personal way. But over the next few months I discovered just how difficult and time consuming it was to do things like sift through discussion groups, locate relevant conversations already in progress, and contribute value to those conversations. It was much easier just to post content to Instagram loaded with interesting hashtags, and then watch my engagement numbers skyrocket.
I remember thinking, ‘Hey, Instagram seems to be where I’m getting the best results; so I might as well put all my energy into that instead of trying so hard to build trust from scratch via chats with strangers.’
So, back to the painful experience a few days ago: I posted something to Instagram, and then noticed an hour later I’d only gotten 2 likes. I’d expected to see maybe 20 or 30, just because I always use so many hashtags to reach as many people as possible (not necessarily because my content is so amazing or anything). In other words, I share this story not to portray myself as some sort of content marketing expert, since really that was never my goal.
Anyway, I came to realize the problem was my hashtags weren’t working for some reason. I mean, they’d show up on my posts, but my posts weren’t showing up at the hashtags. That meant people searching though those hashtags wouldn’t see my content, which meant only my existing followers were seeing me in their feeds.And my followers would see that my posts weren’t getting much engagement anymore (without knowing why), so there wouldn’t be as much of an incentive for them to like or respond.
The whole situation put me in quite a conundrum. I felt like all of a sudden my reputation on Instagram was shot. I was freaking out because I’d really been enjoying some of the deeper connections I’d been able to make (apart from all the noise of scrounging for likes and follows). I didn’t want to leave Instagram and lose those friendships; but I certainly didn’t want to keep putting out posts with 30-some hashtags and steadily dwindling engagement.
Then I happened to catch one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s YouTube videos where he’s advising this young guy getting started in business, saying: “Yeah, go on Snapchat; go on Instagram Stories; and be sure to post at least 7 times a day on those platforms.”
The young guy says, “How could I ever come up with that much content?”
Gary responds, “It’s simple: Don’t create; document.”
In other words, instead of putting energy into manufacturing content, just document your real life and journey at it happens. Potential followers will be far more interested in seeing your quest toward becoming a thought leader, business mogul, or entrepreneur than in whatever it is you’re trying to make or sell.
There’s so much value in seeing the process of someone becoming what they want to be.
All of a sudden, I saw exactly where I’d been getting it wrong. Even though from the start my heart had always been to be real, to build real relationships, and to put my real story out there, somewhere along the line I’d gotten off track.
I believe many of us are in that same boat. We have traits we want to change, and goals to accomplish; we have values we want to bring to the world; we have visions for our lives, for the businesses we want to build, or for the art we want to produce.
It’s easy to spend forever planning exactly how you think your life or dreams should play out.
But now I’m coming full circle in my thinking. Or, to put that another way: The intuitions I’ve felt all along are being confirmed in new ways and on new levels. I’m starting to grasp in a deeper sense that real power to change and make a difference comes from celebrating exactly where you’re at right now—from standing up and publicly owning everything about your life and journey, and from allowing others to see you for what you are: an imperfect, flawed, limited human being in pursuit of some ideal.
The power is in letting your realness or uniqueness—the good, the bad, and everything in-between—be seen for exactly what it is by anyone who cares to look.
That’s what people connect to. That’s what inspires and builds lasting value in the world.
When we see true authenticity and transparency, we think, ‘I want to follow that person because I know they’re real. I see that we’re on similar journeys, and I want to be their friend so we can get where we’re going together.’
I’ve felt the same drive to go public with my experience for years; but instead of ever just setting up a camera and pressing record, I’d “prepare,” which really equated to sitting up way past midnight most nights trying to rustle up attention on social media (usually while getting drunk and listening to others’ content non-stop for “learning” purposes).
But such unhelpful behaviors are precisely what doing this right now—putting myself out there this way—holds me accountable to change: to not waste my time; to not get drunk every night; to not live with earphones permanently attached and my mouth sewn shut; but to actually stand up and do this uncomfortable, scary, new thing (out in the open for all to see).
For whatever you want to do or change, going public with that desire and journey holds you accountable.
For example, there’s this writers’ group that meets near my house on Wednesday nights. I’ve kept track of them online for years because I’ve felt like it would be really good for me to go; but I’ve never gone. I’ve been putting it off all this time, telling myself, “Okay, once you finish so-and-so project or publish such-and-such book, then you can go join that writers’ group.”
Since I’ve now shared that part of my life publicly with you, I’m left with no excuses. There’s nothing for me to tell myself but, ‘Hey, you said you were going to go to that writers’ group, so you want to be able to tell them you went. You want to be able to tell yourself you went.”
Most everything I write and share somehow relates back to this idea of being and becoming a real person—of discovering the unique values you bring to the world, and of learning in time to overcome whatever holds you back.
So let’s talk. What do you want to do or be? What convictions have you yet to follow through on? What values might want to use you to bring themselves more to life somewhere real in the world (if only…)?
I mean it, let’s really talk. Let’s start a discussion.
Now go be you : )